Pioneering architects, entrepreneurs, artists and philanthropists, John C. Portman, Jr. and John C. “Jack” Portman, III changed the skylines of cities around the world and impacted the lives of many in Atlanta and abroad. While our hearts are heavy, we are honored to continue in their legacy and memory.


December 4, 1924 – December 29, 2017

We are saddened by the passing of our founder, John C. Portman, Jr. at the age of 93.

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Recognized throughout the world for his innovative design, John Portman did not always follow traditional paths. Always eager to try new concepts, early in his career he pioneered the role of architect as developer to allow more freedom in implementation of his design concepts. His keen business sense and entrepreneurial spirit enabled him to develop many profitable projects.

His impact is greatest on his hometown of Atlanta where today the 14-block Peachtree Center complex attests to his commitment to the downtown business district and includes many of his landmark projects. Peachtree Center began in 1960 with the opening of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. The Mart has since grown to become AmericasMart, the world’s largest single wholesale marketplace. By stimulating trade and tourism, Portman was the catalyst that established Atlanta as one of the nation’s premiere convention cities. His three major downtown hotels, the Hyatt Regency, Westin Peachtree Plaza, and Marriott Marquis, anchor the convention district. From the opening of the Hyatt Regency in 1967, with its 22-story atrium, Portman made architectural history and won international acclaim. Paul Goldberger of The New York Times wrote “He (Portman) is the only architect of his era to create not only a series of significant buildings, but a new urban type.” Paul Gapp of The Chicago Tribune wrote at the time, “The most influential living American architect is John Calvin Portman, Jr.” further adding “Countless other architects have copied him but the music just isn’t the same.”

Portman was best known for his urban mixed-use complexes wherein his understanding of people and their response to space translates into enhanced environments and award-winning architecture. From Embarcadero Center in San Francisco and Times Square in New York to Marina Square in Singapore and Shanghai Centre in China, he has taken people away from the congestion of urban life to create spaces that are open and uplifting to the human spirit. Since his first project in 1953 where he personally made his first sculpture commission, he was committed to incorporating art in all his projects, thereby making art an integral part of their success. The people of Atlanta continue to enjoy his contributions to the arts, from the magnificent bronze lions by Olivier Strebelle he commissioned for Peachtree Center Avenue to Paul Manship’s towering Ballet Olympia on Peachtree Street.

His love of art is evident in all that he did. He supported the arts, he collected, and he, himself, was a painter and sculptor. The High Museum of Art Atlanta exhibit, John Portman: Art & Architecture (October 2009 – April 2010), currently on tour throughout the world, includes approximately fifty-five works of art created by Portman since 1981, most of which have never been exhibited in public. In 1997, he was inducted as an Academician of the National Academy – Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York. In 1996, the Angel Orensanz Foundation elected him Member of the Senate of the Accademia Internazionale d’Arte Moderna. He served as a board member of the Atlanta College of Art, and was Trustee Emeritus of the Atlanta Arts Alliance. He also served as a Director of the Atlanta High Museum of Art. The Georgia Institute of Technology, his alma mater, presented him their highest honor, the Exceptional Achievement Award in 1986 and then, in 2014, named the endowed Dean’s chair at the College of Architecture after him. Harvard Graduate School of Design also has a chair named for him. His numerous architectural awards include a lifetime achievement award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2009, the Silver Medal Award in 1981 from the AIA Atlanta Chapter for innovative design, and AIA Medal in 1978 from the National American Institute of Architects for innovations in hotel design.

Mr. Portman’s work has been featured in six major books. Additionally, the 2011 documentary, John Portman, A Life of Building, by Ben Loeterman, captures Portman’s approach to architecture, art and life.


November 3, 1948 - August 28, 2020

“The challenge of the architect is to do something that seems to belong where it is situated.”

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Son of famed Atlanta architect John Calvin Portman Jr. and Jan Portman, Jack was born November 3, 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia. Jack graduated from The Lovett School in Atlanta, then earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He began practicing architecture in 1973 at John Portman & Associates, rising from an Apprentice Architect to become Chairman of the firm, now known as Portman Architects.

Jack took over leadership of Portman Architects following the death of his father, John C. Portman Jr., in 2017. Throughout his nearly 50-year career with the Portman Companies, Jack pioneered their international expansion, helping to transform the enterprises into the globe-spanning real estate design and development firms that they are today. Most notably, Jack was one of the first American businessmen to recognize the enormous potential of the Pacific Rim markets in the wake of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.

In January 1979, Jack traveled to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou to investigate possible business opportunities in China. Jack worked to get in front of the right people to open minds to new possibilities. His efforts led to the design and development of Shanghai Centre, the first project in China to be undertaken by a foreign architect and developer who was not ethnically Chinese in decades. His all-time favorite project, Shanghai Centre represented a triumph of perseverance and diplomacy, harmonized cultural references with a vision of the future, and served as a catalyst in the rapid evolution of the practice of architecture in modern-day China.

Over the course of his long career, Jack became something of an ambassador for American architects in China. He pioneered a successful approach to practicing internationally by immersing himself in the culture, learning Mandarin, and building relationships based on a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. In awarding Jack fellow status within the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the organization recognized him as the embodiment of the AIA’s desire to expand the institution’s reach globally, provide a voice for the profession, and serve as a resource to aid the advancement of other members. His visionary leadership in Asia significantly boosted Atlanta’s image as a savvy player in the global marketplace. Success in China led to work in India and beyond, including additional projects across the United States, where Portman Architects continue to prove their progressive design talents. Despite his sudden departure, Jack leaves the firm on solid footing with thriving offices in Atlanta and Shanghai.

Portman Architects is growing and active under the leadership of long-standing principals who benefitted from experience working with both John and Jack Portman. Jack was perhaps most excited about the firm’s talented young architects who he characterized as coming out of school well-equipped to contribute in a big way right from the start.

In recent years, Jack has been instrumental in the establishment of a distinguished visiting professorship in architecture at Harvard GSD in honor of his father. The John Portman Visiting Chair in Architecture creates a special opportunity for Harvard GSD to bring internationally recognized designers to campus in a sustained role, and to engage in the life of Harvard while supporting research assistance, exhibitions, and publications. Additionally, Jack served on the board of Harvard GSD Dean’s Leadership Council & Georgia Tech China Foundation and was a member of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill Chancellor’s Global Leadership Council.

Jack was well known amongst family and friends for his mischievous sense of humor, impeccably unique style, love of design, and his exceptional generosity. He loved nothing more than when all of his children and grandchildren, along with spouses and close friends, joined him in the backyard, chatting and laughing. Often a grandchild would interrupt the adult conversation, begging “Daddy Jack” to play with them, and he always did. “Daddy Jack” was the most fun. Each of his grandkids knew that he would be up for anything, especially a second (or third) dessert, an impromptu painting session, or some exciting excursion way past bedtime. A voracious reader and a passionate artist, Jack pursued a lifelong enthusiasm for learning, painting, and traveling the world—experiences he considered his most important education—and he always shared the fruits of these passions with the ever-growing number of people who were fortunate enough to be a part of his life

Jack was a proud father to Joannah Portman Daley, Alissa Portman Beard, John C. Portman IV, Easan Everly Portman, and Eres Ever Invicta Portman. In addition to his five children, Jack is survived by his mother, Joan “Jan” Portman; his siblings, Michael Portman, Jeff Portman, Jana Portman Simmons and Jarel Portman; five grandchildren, Emerson Daley, Holden and Amelia Beard, and John Calvin Portman V and Everett Portman; and countless more relatives and cherished friends. Jack was preceded in death by his younger brother Jae Portman and his father, John Calvin Portman Jr. The family is holding a small private memorial service and, in lieu of flowers, suggests that memorial contributions be made to Art Papers, the Andrew J. Young Foundation or another charity of your choice.